The future destination park will be home to city’s first year-round park restaurant
The team behind a forthcoming Native American restaurant — and the record-breaking Kickstarter campaign to launch it — are partnering with park officials to open another restaurant along the downtown Minneapolis riverfront.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the founders of The Sioux Chef recently announced they intend to partner on a restaurant at Water Works, a proposed park that has begun to form between the Stone Arch Bridge and the Third Avenue Bridge.
Chef Sean Sherman and partner Dana Thompson, the duo behind The Sioux Chef, specialize in cuisine made from indigenous Native American ingredients. Last year, the duo got national attention when they raised nearly $150,000 via a crowdfunding campaign to open The Sioux Chef concept, a record for a restaurant concept on Kickstarter. The two Southwest Minneapolis residents, who have traveled around the world teaching about the indigenous food model, have yet to announce a location for the concept.
Sherman, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, cooks with pre-colonial food and sources ingredients from indigenous communities. The two consulted on the Tatanka Truck, a traditional Native American food truck owned by Little Earth of United Tribes.
“With the removal of colonial ingredients, our plan is to drive economic wealth back into indigenous communities by sourcing food from these growers first. We look forward to sharing and enjoying these diverse and healthy foods with all communities,” said co-owner Dana Thompson in a statement.
A major piece of Water Works will be a restaurant pavilion, which the Park Board plans to embed in what remains of the historic Bassett, Columbia and Occidental mills beneath the site. Beyond The Sioux Chef concept, the glassy structure will feature a public lounge, restrooms and a flexible room for small-group activities.
The restaurant will be the city’s first park restaurant open all year. The Park Board and its partners operate several seasonal restaurants throughout the city, including Sea Salt Eatery.
The site, which the Park Board began working on earlier this summer, has a historical connection to food. In addition to once being home to one of the flour mills the downtown riverfront is famous for, the Water Works site is also home to the Fuji-Ya building, which was once the city’s first Japanese restaurant. Crews began demolishing part of the building in September to make way for the project.
“Water Works will celebrate the complex history of this area, through a layered park design, as well as programming, art, play and performance. Co-owners Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson, along with their team, are sharing powerful stories through food about the intricate relationship between people and land,” said Tom Evers, executive director of the Minneapolis Park Foundation.
The river corridor is also part of the homeland of the Dakota, who have called the St. Anthony Falls area Owamni Yamni or “place of whirlpools.”
“This location has been a sacred site of peace and well-being for the Dakota and Anishinaabe people for millennia,” Thompson said. “We plan to leverage this wonderful partnership with the Minneapolis Park Board, through our aligned mission of nutritional, physical, and spiritual health for all, as well as to create food access and education about the rich history of the [Native American] people in this beautiful area.”
The foundation, the Park Board’s philanthropic partner, has raised $12.7 million of its roughly $18-million goal to finance the first phase of Water Works, according to a spokeswoman. Construction on the first of two phases, dubbed the mezzanine phase, will begin late next summer. The phase, which includes the restaurant pavilion, is slated to open in 2019.
Beyond the restaurant, The Sioux Chef team plans to support training and jobs for people interested in their field and work with the Park Board’s design team to create places to grow native plants. The team intends to create events and educational opportunities to highlight Native American cultures, the Mississippi River and the food.
“Our partnership with The Sioux Chef opens up opportunities beyond what the Park Board could achieve on its own. Our goals of providing healthy, locally sourced food and meaningful recreational and economic opportunities are well-aligned with the vision of The Sioux Chef,” Superintendent Jayne Miller said.
It will still be a number of years before the Park Board’s vision for Water Works is complete. The board expects to begin schematic design work of the final phase after the first phase opens two years from now. Work on the second or riverside phase, which will build further bicycle and pedestrian connections to the riverfront, is slated to begin in 2021 and wrap up in 2023.